Saturday, February 03, 2007

Life lacking spice (a post about food)

I am not going to bore you with the details of my life in the U.S.-- and that is, unfortunately exactly the outcome of me rehashing the, um events of the last few months. Let's just say I've been busy, and I've been bored.
That said, one thing I must share with all of you is my new hobby: cooking. It all started for Thanksgiving. For the first time since my parents divorced (over 15 years ago), my father decided to spend the holiday with his daughters instead of a trophy wife or girlfriend. My sister was flying in from the big city and I would be driving to the rez (Daddy lives on an indian reservation in eastern Washington). But before that, I volunteered to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I went without cooking the entire time I was in France and desperately wanted to create a memorable holiday. So, I did what any obsessive perfectionist would; I held several practice dinners where I entertained my friends and rehearsed cooking my thanksgiving dinner. Guests rated and critiqued recipes and I spent about $300.00 on ingredients. I cooked whole chickens instead of turkeys-- too big, and made them (my friends-- not the chickens) bring their own wine.

Final Dinner Menu:
Free-range turkey with basil and butter rubbed underneath the skin: soooooo moist!
Au gratin potatoes: gruyere, mozarella, parmesean, and six (!) other random cheeses (a new family favorite)
Cornbread and andouille stuffing: I expanded on the recipe by adding plums for color and moisture, peas, and rosemary, basil, and oregano.
Green beans flash fried with pecans
Sweet potato pudding: I've made this for every dinner and brunch since then (see recipe below)
homemade buttermilk biscuits: never again-- I will buy a mix!
gooey pumpkin cake (I like this so much better than pie)
homemade whipped cream: see buttermilk biscuits

All of that for 3 people! I spent 5 hours cooking and didn't even get to shower that day. Pictures of me at the table show my greasy head and stained t-shirt (I refused to face the camera), while my sister and father are both dressed to the nines.*
Best part of that day: I left the bottle of bourbon I'd bought for the pudding at home. I couldn't find bourbon extract at the one grocery store in town and had to drive to two different neighboring towns to find an open bar. I bribed the bartender $20 for 4 tablespoons of bourbon. A toothless woman with a mullet saved the holiday.
Ahh, holiday memories...

Sweet Potato Pudding

2 pounds sweet potatoes, roasted
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Steen's 100 percent Pure Cane Syrup
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel and mash the potatoes in a mixing bowl, until smooth. Stir in the eggs and cream. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, 1/2 cup of the pecans, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, syrup, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Mix well. Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2 quart greased round baking dish. Combine the remaining pecans, remaining brown sugar, flour, coconut and butter. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse texture. Spread the mixture over the pudding and place in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve hot.
-- I don't crumble the coarse mixture over the top, but mix it in with the rest--

*Does anybody know the origins of that saying?